Strengths – what are they and why do they matter?

At the moment, we’re busily preparing for York Strengths development days. This is a programme you’re invited to take part in during your first year to help you discover what your personal strengths are. We talk a lot about strengths, but below Lauren Salter, a Graduate and Early Talent Manager from Reed, explains why understanding your strengths is good for you and for businesses.

So first of all, what are strengths? I imagine there are hundreds of definitions but there are definitely some common themes! Experts suggest that strengths must stem from your natural abilities and preferences but also your level of engagement with something. So, if you’re good at something that you don’t enjoy – this isn’t a strength! In order for something to be a natural strength, it must be motivating and come from a place of authenticity.

If people are capable of doing their job, why should we pay attention to strengths in the workplace?

Research suggests that people who use their strengths on a daily basis are 6 times more likely to be engaged at work. Having a role which utilises strengths not only increases job satisfaction, but also productivity & ‘going the extra mile.’ Sounds like strengths are pretty good for business!

Are businesses utilising strengths?

People at work

The Institute of Student Employers reported that around 40% of graduate recruiters have some strength based recruitment in their process. By recruiting using strength-based methods, we are able to assess how well someone can do a job & how engaged they will be, rather than simply their capability to complete the tasks. We can also assess on potential rather than experience – which is perfect for the Early Talent market!!

And how does this fit with diversity? Research suggests that this type of assessment can lead to a more diverse workforce, as it is not relying on candidates who have had a ton of opportunities – just the people with the right strengths for the role!

Do you know what your strengths are?

According to Capp (who helped co-create the York Strengths framework) only 1 in 3 people can say what their strengths are, and even these people aren’t necessarily right as they are focusing on what they are good at rather than incorporating their levels of engagement.

A high awareness of strengths means that you are 10 times more likely to be flourishing in your job.

Still not convinced?

If you use 4 of more of your strengths, you are more likely to describe your job as your calling. Make your job your calling!

There are many different tools you can use to uncover your strengths, just starting with some reflection and awareness of when you feel in ‘flow’ or in the zone! You can also use some recognised inventories such as the VIA strengths model (Martin Seligman) or The Strengths Profile (Alex Linley & Trudy Bateman).

Need more convincing? What do the experts say?

Matt Heather – Head of Talent Acquisition at REED

We know that strengths can be measured in different ways and are less prescriptive in the style of assessment compared to that of competencies or behaviours.  Reed recognise that by using this blended approach to our selection, we maximise the opportunity to get the very best out of our applicants and more likely to appoint people into the right career paths with us.

Victoria Officer – Senior Business Psychologist at TMP

“Strengths are an extremely important part of the whole puzzle of what makes someone right for a role within an organisation. We describe strengths as your passion, the enjoyment and energy you get from doing and mastering a role. However, this has to be combined with an alignment of purpose. If an individual has both passion for the role and aligns to the purpose, vision and goals of an organisation you have the start of a winning formula for great and long-term performance.”


The York Strengths Programme – our own programme based on nine key strengths. Find out more on the York Strengths web page

The Strengths Profile Book: Finding What You Can Do + Love To Do And Why It Matters By Alex Linley